A u.s. Senator warned that “NSA’s potential to violate the privacy of American citizens is unmatched by any other U.S. intelligence agency.”
“Tons of electronic surveillance equipment at this moment are interconnected within our domestic and international common carrier telecommunications systems. Much more is under contract for installation. Perhaps this equipment is humming away in a semi quiescent state wherein at present no citizen is targeted but simply scanned…How soon will it be before a punched card will quietly be dropped to the machine, a card having your telephone number, my telephone number or the number of one my friends to whom we will be speaking.”
The sinister statement above was uttered in 1976.
Under the Reagan administration, the NSA could be authorized to lend its full cryptanalytic support – analysts as well as computers – to any department agency. By then, the microwaves and the internet and satellite coverage had transformed human communication. By 1981 there were domestic satellites in orbit with the capacity of carrying thousands of circuits. Each COMSAT bird had 18,000 thousand circuits that record many thousand phone conversations. Literally tons of billions of words including computer data transfers. Even the mail was being carried by satellite.
The U.S. Postal Service inaugurated the INTELPOST whereby anything from blueprints to letters could be transmitted via satellite and cooperating foreign overseas phone and computer lines. Then came a U.S. domestic system known as Electronic Computer Originated Mail that carried messages by satellite anywhere in the country. By 1982, the system was carrying 12 million messages daily and handing 75 billion of letter mail. IBM, AT&T, Xerox and other major technological giants were joining the program.
The greatest transformation came in U.S. spying and that same worldwide blanket of microwave signals and satellite intelligence, the same circuits that gave you your online banking, telegrams and mail had been diverted to the NSA’s far flung network of dish covered intercept stations, and, one of these was the Air Force Communications intelligence unit that picked up fragments of the Soviet Air Defense System near Alaska near Sakhalin Island. They picked up fragments of on-board chatter from Soviet fighters and beamed to Elmendorf Air Base. At the time the NSA had twenty three “floor units” scattered around the world and listening in. A top Secret clearance was only an entrée into these activities. (In the 1889 there were 22 secret clearances above Top Secret. That may have changed and probably have but there used to be such things a Top Secret Umbra or Special Activities Office clearance were above Top Secret, for example, who have access to special orbit intelligence, etc. The U.S. Navy Security Group Activity was another group that monitored the Soviet Navy. There was also the U.S. Army’s Intelligence and Security Command that spied on the Soviet Army in Europe the Soviet Army and Intelligence command that included Afghanistan. The outfits use people with high IQs only. The National SIGINT Operations center was set up in the 1970s by NSA to monitor every crisis event. It became known at the intelligence command center of the United States.)
The SIGINT got where it is today by being the most accurate way of collecting intelligence, a method that avoids the mental distortions of a HUMINT source as well as the errors of the interpreter of that source.
So I do not quite understand the uproar of Snowden’s revelations except it reveals the mainstream media doesn’t read and doesn’t bother to acquaint itself with the past.
The shock that came with the discovery that the United States had listened into leaders in 2007 summit should not have come as a surprise. Inside the CIA’s Directorate of Operations there is something called the Bureau of Leadership Analysis. This group used to focus on such things as acquiring sources within Kaddafi’s inner circle and such chores. Their task is to develop intimate information about the meeting participants and then spy o the proceedings. In Washington in 1987, (I believe) Gorbachev visited President Reagan, and the CIA hired lip readers to watch every conversation, and waiters were armed with listening devices, and all the rooms were bugged. (Lip readers only got about 30 percent of what was said. ) From sources in the FBI I knew every waiter in the Madison or Jefferson Hotels who was working undercover for the KGB. The Soviets were so good at this electronic eavesdropping that in the mid 1980s, they built a new U.S. Embassy from a detailed model crafted out in the wastes of Siberia. When it was on the brink of being installed, U.S. spies found the whole building was in fact a listening device. By that I mean, that the arch of a doorway was assembled in such a way that it picked up every conversation. The Soviets seeded the buildings with hordes of bugs that could, with work be discovered, but we got wise to it and got ourselves a new building.
So I am quite puzzled at the new uproar about what seems to me old news. Perhaps I am not grasping the story correctly. I would enjoy people setting me straight.
It seems to me that the real menaces of the privacy
of U.S. citizens are marketers who plot every visit to a web site, every
purchase in a store or on line, to make a pattern out of our habits to relieve
them of our money. That is the real and enduring threat. Richard Sale